Biology as Society, Society as Biology: Metaphors

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Sabine Maasen, Everett Mendelsohn, P. Weingart
Springer Netherlands, Mar 31, 1995 - Reference - 356 pages
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not lie in the conceptual distinctions but in the perceived functions of metaphors and whether in the concrete case they are judged positive or negative. The ongoing debates reflect these concerns quite clearly~ namely that metaphors are judged on the basis of supposed dangers they pose and opportunities they offer. These are the criteria of evaluation that are obviously dependent on the context in which the transfer of meaning occurs. Our fundamental concern is indeed the transfer itself~ its prospects and its limits. Looking at possible functions of metaphors is one approach to under standing and elucidating sentiments about them. The papers in this volume illustrate, by quite different examples, three basic functions of metaphors: illustrative, heuristic~ and constitutive. These functions rep resent different degrees of transfer of meaning. Metaphors are illustrative when they are used primarily as a literary device, to increase the power of conviction of an argument, for example. Although the difference between the illustrative and the heuristic function of metaphors is not great, it does exist: metaphors are used for heuristic purposes whenever "differences" of meaning are employed to open new perspectives and to gain new insights. In the case of "constitutive" metaphors they function to actually replace previous meanings by new ones. Sabine Maasen in her paper introduces the distinction between transfer and transforma tion.

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About the author (1995)

SABINE MAASEN is Professor for Science Studies at the University of Basel. Her research interests include the dynamics of knowledge, social construction of volition and consciousness, neosocial governmentality, and new forms of knowledge production. A related publication is on "Voluntary Action: On Brains, Minds, and Sociality" (with Wolfgang Prinz & Gerhard Roth, 2003). BARBARA SUTTER is Research Assistant at the University of Basel. Her training is in sociology, political science, and philosophy and her research work focuses on transformations of the social by politics of participation and responsibilization.

Mendelsohn, Department of the History of Science, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.

Peter Weingart is a professor at the Institute for Science and Technology Studies, University of Bielefeld, Germany.

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